Rural round-up

05/05/2021

Covid 19 coronavirus: Hawke’s Bay farms short of specialist skilled workers – Sahiban Hyde:

Farms in Hawke’s Bay are at risk of staff fatigue as they struggle with a shortage of specialist skilled workers, says Hawke’s Bay Federated Farmers president.

This follows the decision of the Productivity Commission to hold an inquiry into our current immigration settings.

The inquiry will sit alongside existing changes planned by Immigration, including the implementation of reforms to temporary work visas and a review of the Skilled Migrant Category visa.

Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay president Jim Galloway said the closure of the border because of Covid-19 has seen roles typically filled by specialist skilled workers, relegated to inexperienced staff. . . 

We’ll pick ’em all – Peter Burke:

Kiwifruit is just too valuable not to be picked and despite the challenges of labour and weather, it will be picked.

That’s the message from the Kiwifruit Growers organisation (NZKGI) chief executive Nikki Johnson, who says wet weather and the late maturity of the fruit has slowed down picking. She told Hort News that some employers are faring better than others, which is consistent with other years, and there are still vacancies across packhouse and orchard roles – particularly for nightshift and weekend work.

“While there is a shortage of seasonal labour, we are focused on ensuring that all kiwifruit will be picked and packed this season. A shortage of labour may mean that managers need to be more selective about when particular fruit gets picked and packed,” Johnson says.

“People may also need to work longer shifts. However, the industry is extremely focused on ensuring that all kiwifruit is harvested. It is a high value crop, contributing around $2 billion to New Zealand’s kiwifruit regions in 2020.” . . 

Fruitful 10 years for avocado boss – Sudesh Kissun:

New Zealand Avocado chief executive Jen Scoular has overseen the industry almost treble in value during the past 10 years. Scoular recently completed her 10th year as head of industry-good organisation NZ Avocado.

She and her team have helped guide the industry’s value growth from $68 million in 2011 to a forecast $200m in 2021.

She told Hort News that another achievement for her and the team was gaining crown funding for the first horticulture Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) to enable a step change in the industry. Scoular adds that NZ winning the rights to host the 2023 World Avocado Congress is another feather in her team’s cap.

She says the industry has also worked collaboratively to gain market access and to start exporting to China and India, two of the world’s largest economies. . . 

 

Family of farmers loving living the high life – David Hill:

A passion for farming is the secret to running a high country station, Annabel Tripp says.

Having lived all her life at Snowdon Station, north of Rakaia Gorge, Ms Tripp said there was no disadvantage to being a woman in the high country.

“It’s probably no different from being a man in the high country, really. It’s just about what your passion is, I guess.

“It’s really important that if you’re doing something, that you enjoy it and also that you try to do it to the best of your ability. . . 

Retirement a work in progress – Alice Scott:

Pat Suddaby says he might be retired but he’ll never stop working.

Since selling their 570ha sheep and beef farm in Hindon, near Outram, in 2010, Mr Suddaby and his wife Mary have ensured they have kept busy and active.

Mr Suddaby can be found these days working as a greenkeeper at the Middlemarch Golf Club and he is also an active member of the Strath Taieri Lions Club.

When the farm was sold, there was an adjustment period, Mr Suddaby said. . . 

 

Time the national beef herd’s facts were actually heard – Chris McLennan;

The Australian beef industry is already tired of being told their message of sustainability is not being heard.

But they have been reassured when they finally make headway against the anti-meat lobby, they will have transparency and truth on their side.

Australia’s beef industry has been patiently gathering key facts from individual farms for years.

Experts say all this data will be vital when the time is ripe to lay all the facts out before the public, the good, bad and the ugly. . . 


Rural round-up

10/04/2021

Covid-19 coronavirus: Orchardists plead for Pacific Island travel bubble – Christian Fuller:

Orchardists say more than $600m is set to be lost to from regional economies like Hawke’s Bay’s as a result of the massive shortage of workers to pick fruit.

The region’s orchardists, exporters and growers reliant on seasonal work say they’ve worked through the season with “anxiety and desperation beyond belief”.

And they are calling on the Government to open a travel bubble with the Pacific islands to allow the free flow of what would normally be up to 14,410 workers arriving as part of the recognised seasonal employer scheme, in time for the 2022 season.

Thousands of tonnes of fruit is now being left on trees in Hawke’s Bay. . . 

NZ Pork slams blanket emissions policy – Annette Scott:

The pork industry is calling for the Government to recognise a different emissions policy approach for pigs.

In its submission to the Climate Change Commission (CCC), NZ Pork says a one-size-fits-all approach for livestock does not take into account non-ruminant livestock such as pigs.

New Zealand Pork chief executive David Baines says the unique nature of the pork industry in NZ means policy designed for the pastoral sector and ruminant livestock will not necessarily be the most effective means of facilitating emissions reductions from farmed pigs.

While welcoming many of the recommendations in the CCC’s draft advice to the Government, he says a blanket policy could disproportionately impact NZ pig farmers. . . 

Saleyards a magnet for Knight – Shawn McAvinue:

A retired trucking company owner continues to visit a stock sale in Central Otago to have “a nosey” and shout smoko.

Forbes Knight (89) first visited the Mt Benger Saleyards near Roxburgh after buying trucking company Millers Flat Carrying Company in 1954, aged 22.

Mr Knight, of Millers Flat, said in the 1950s, the footprint of the saleyards was much bigger and stretched across both sides of Teviot Rd.

The stock inside the pens were skinnier then because of a rampant rabbit population eating their feed. . . 

Plant production Young Achiever back for 2021:

Entries open now – are you the next plant producers Young Achiever?

NZ Plant Producers is very pleased to announce that the Young Achiever of the Year competition is back for 2021.

After being forced to cancel in 2020, the next competition will be held on July 14-15, at Growing Spectrum, Hamilton.

Young Achiever allows young people involved in plant production to gain an entry to the prestigious Young Horticulturalist of the Year competition. Entrants are tested on their practical industry skills, knowledge, and public speaking. . . 

Young chef wins ambassador award :

Even before his most recent win a few weeks ago, there was no doubt Sam Heaven was a young chef going places.

Despite border closures late last year, he won the Nestlé Golden Chef’s Hat Award for best chef in Australia and New Zealand aged under 25 in a virtual grand final cook-off.

After winning the title Heaven, 23, who works at the Park Hyatt in Auckland, thought that was it for competitions.

“After that last one I thought ‘that’s it, I’ve done heaps, it’s time to focus on my career’,” Heaven said. . . 

Debate over dingo versus wild dog, does the name matter – Chris McLennan:

Scientists who insist virtually all wild dogs are actually dingoes say the term was adopted because it was easier to sell.

They say “killing wild dogs is more palatable than killing dingoes”.

Wild dogs may be fair game for baiting, shooting and trapping programs run by landholders and governments, dingoes are often not.

Wild dogs are estimate to cost Australian agriculture more than $100 million annually. . . 


Rural round-up

09/04/2021

Federated Farmers sees MIQ opportunity for agriculture:

Federated Farmers hopes that the Government will take the opportunity of newly available space in MIQ quarantine to bring much-needed workers for the primary industries into New Zealand.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins estimates that the Australian quarantine-free travel bubble will free up 1000 to 1300 beds in MIQ a fortnight.

“MIQ spacing has been continually quoted as a barrier for getting the workers we need. With more beds becoming available it should now allow those with agricultural skills to enter the country,” Federated Farmers Immigration Spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“With continued low unemployment and the majority of available workers remaining in the urban centres, all of the primary industries are crying out for labour.” . . 

Farmers take up resilience planning for future droughts – Hugh Cameron:

While the country may be heading into winter, the impact of another dry summer is fresh on the minds of some farmers. Some hit by drought say there are steps that can be taken to ease the pressure and planning should start now.

Parts of the Far North were once again hit by meteorological drought this summer. While it wasn’t as severe as the previous summer’s big dry that hit much of the country, it was a set-back for farmers, who were hoping to rebuild feed reserves and make a full recovery.

Chairperson of the Northland Rural Support Trust, Chris Neill, believed drought planning would become even more critical in the future. He encouraged farmers to make a risk management plan that gave them options when tough conditions hit again.

“I think there were some lessons learned last year, in fact there were a lot of lessons learned last year, about being prepared for these dry conditions given the predictions around changes in climate,” Neill said. . . 

A wave of cash is about to transform the agri market – Andrew Lamming:

We are in very interesting times right now.

There are some big forces about to play out in the main trading banks operating in New Zealand. We believe this will culminate into a wave of capital that the Agri sector hasn’t seen for the past 5-7 years.

That wave of capital coming to the Agri sector is going to have some interesting effects on asset values, funding costs and decision making. . .

New Zealand Shears – the show finally on the road:

Organisers of the New Zealand Shears are breathing a sigh of relief as they bounce-back from the cancellation of last year’s event to stage the 2021 championships starting in Te Kuiti tomorrow(Thursday).

More than 200 shearers and woolhandlers will compete in the three-day championships, which 12 months ago became one of the early casualties of the 2021 Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown – called-off for the first time since the New Zealand championships were resurrected initially as the new King Country Shears in 1985.

While a Level 2 alert which cancelled this year’s Golden Shears in Masterton at just four days’ notice a month ago sent shivers up the spines of every event organiser in New Zealand, New Zealand Shears president Claire Grainger said her committee was determined to go ahead, including discussing how it could if the alert had remained in place. . . 

Aussie shearers called to help out in UK but pandemic rules still a worry – Chris McLennan:

Australian and New Zealand shearers have now been given a special exemption to travel to the United Kingdom to help solve their shearer crisis.

Shearers are in demand across the world from pandemic bans on international travel.

Australia has a crisis of its own with the ban on New Zealand shearers traveling across the ditch during the pandemic.

Now international sheep shearing contractors have been given a special concession to travel into the UK. . . 

Freehold high country a rare find:

Extensive freehold station properties are a rare find in New Zealand today, and one’s offering multiple income opportunities even rarer.

Glazebrook Station, located 46km up the Waihopai River valley in Marlborough has a hard-won reputation as a superb hunting property offering international standard game hunting opportunities located approximately one hour from Blenheim airport.

Positioned in the river valley with sweeping high country that runs to 1,600m above sea level, the station’s landscape typifies the iconic vistas that are central to the southern psyche.

Bayleys Canterbury salesperson Garry Ottmann says purchase of the 8,877ha freehold property would mark a rare claim in today’s property market. . . 


Rural round-up

05/04/2021

CCC submissions flood in – Neal Wallace:

Methane reduction targets remain a contentious issue for the livestock sector, which is critical of Climate Change Commission recommendations for an even steeper reduction pathway than proposed in the Zero Carbon Act.

Beef + Lamb NZ, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers are labelling the proposed new targets as unrealistic and not backed by robust science, economic or farm system analysis.

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor says the revised target is a 13.2% reduction in biogenic methane emissions below 2017 levels by 2030.

“This represents a 32% increase in the level of ambition compared to the 2030 biogenic methane target contained in the Zero Carbon Act, which is to reduce methane emissions to 10% below 2017 levels by 2030,” McIvor said. . . 

Smith to push for more automation in the hort sector – Peter Burke:

More automation in orchards – that’s what Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) director general Ray Smith says he’s going to push hard for in the coming 12 months.

He told Rural News that there is real growth in horticulture and the opportunity for more, but New Zealand as not solved the labour supply problem.

“Too much of the horticultural industry has been built off the back of immigrant labour and the risk of that is what we see now,” Smith says.

“If anything goes wrong with that supply chain of workers then you have massive problems. That is why there is a need for the investment in automation and we want to see this directed to what can be done in orchards.”

Milking shed ravaged by fire, community spirit gets farmers back up and running – Joanne Holden:

A South Canterbury farmer whose milking shed, built by his father, was ravaged by fire has got his dairy operation back on track, with a little help from his friends.

The 30-year-old Waitohi milking shed was “fully ablaze” when Hamish Pearse, and five of his staff, grabbed a fire hose each and attacked the flames, keeping them at bay until the fire brigade arrived with five appliances about 20 minutes later.

“The staff were pretty shaken up by the whole thing,” Pearse, of Waitohi, said.

“My dad was emotional about it too, because he built that milking shed himself . . . He came back to see his pride and joy burnt down.” . . 

Synlait ponders lack of profit – Hugh Stringleman:

Synlait may not make a profit this financial year because of sharply reduced orders from a2 Milk Company for packaged infant formula, rising dairy commodity prices and global shipping delays.

At the start of the season Synlait directors expected net profit in FY21 to be similar to last year’s $75 million, then in December they said net profit would be approximately half that of FY20.

They have now said the anticipated result for FY21 will be “broadly breakeven”, which includes the possibility of no profit overall and a small loss in the second half, which is already two months old.

When releasing its first-half results, Synlait said the December downgrade from major customer and minority shareholder a2MC was significant and sudden. . . 

Wyeth’s move west welcomed – Peter Burke:

A few weeks ago, Richard Wyeth took over as chief executive of Yili-owned Westland Milk Products and says his first impressions of the company and its people are positive.

It was only a few months ago he was head of the highly successful Maori-owned dairy company Miraka – a company he helped set up from scratch.

However, Wyeth says he’s really enjoying the new job at Westland and what’s really impressed him is the people in the business.

“There is a really strong desire to see the business do well and people are working really hard to do this,” he told Rural News. . . 

Scientists are testing vaccines for flystrike – Chris McLennan:

Scientists believe they are closing in on a commercial vaccine for flystrike.

Prototype vaccines have already been developed half way through a four-year $2.5 million research project between the wool industry and CSIRO.

A potential vaccine against flystrike has been the subject of decades of research work.

Blowfly infestation of sheep wool, skin and tissue results in an estimated $280 million losses to the wool industry. . . 


Rural round-up

29/03/2021

 Reduced foreign Labour in New Zealand fields failed experiment – Kate MacNamara:

It’s time to call New Zealand’s experiment in reduced foreign labour this harvest season a failure.

One of the country’s largest berry farmers has abandoned growing after a season of chronic labour shortage. Apple growers say they’re so shorthanded that exports will drop some 14 per cent this year, a loss of $95-$100 million. The grape harvest has come off with the help of more machinery, a tradeoff that’s likely to result in less premium wine. And growers estimate they’re still 1400 hires shy of the 4000 workers needed for grape cane pruning in Marlborough next month, the country’s most valuable wine region.

Perhaps the Government’s original idea sounded good in theory: redeploy the rump of seasonal foreign workers who remained stranded in New Zealand from the previous season, update working conditions for the few remaining backpackers, and make up the rest of the workforce from local Kiwis.

But if you add a few numbers, that calculation was always heroic. The need for seasonal hands through New Zealand’s harvest and pruning work approaches 40,000 in the peak summer and early autumn months. Before Covid, Immigration NZ anticipated that 14,500 Pacific workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme and some 50,000 backpackers with working holiday visas would help to make up the labour force. But New Zealand’s closed border changed that. . . 

Orchard work shortage bites – Jared Morgan:

Some workers sent to Central Otago’s orchards and vineyards are not up to standard and the lack of seasonal workers from the Pacific is beginning to bite, an industry leader says.

Continuing labour shortages across both sectors have affected planning for key phases in production cycles such as picking and pruning.

This has led to calls for the Government to open quarantine-free travel bubbles to allow seasonal workers from Covid-free countries to plug labour gaps before it is too late, if not for this season then the next.

Pipfruit industry pioneer Con van der Voort, who operates a major packing facility in Ettrick, said the “come and go” nature of this season’s workforce was affecting orchardists not just in Central Otago but nationally. . . 

NZ’s potato chip industry threatened by cheap European imports – Sally Blundell:

The impact of Covid-19 on the potato chip industry in the Northern Hemisphere is putting locally grown and processed hot potato chips at the local chippie under threat.

The problem is that quiet streets and empty bars in Covid-ridden Europe have resulted in an estimated 1.7 million tonne surplus of raw potato material.

“People can’t go out, have a beer and buy some chips,” Potatoes NZ chief executive Chris Claridge told Frank Film in a recent interview. “That means there’s a big lump of frozen fries that’s got to go somewhere. Our economy’s working, they are sending it here – it is as simple as that.”

Claridge is looking for government action to protect New Zealand potato farmers from the influx of frozen fries grown and processed in Europe undercutting their locally grown equivalent. . . 

‘Milking cows is the easy part now’ – Sally Rae:

South Otago dairy farmers Scott and Ann Henderson were last week crowned Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year winners. They talk to Sally Rae about a career they say is not just about milking cows. 

She was from a sheep and beef farm in Scotland, he was a qualified carpenter from Balclutha.

Scott and Ann Henderson might not have grown up in the dairy farming industry, but the pair have made their mark on the sector, winning the 2021 Southland-Otago Dairy Industry Awards Share Farmer of the Year title.

Industry recognition was not new for Mrs Henderson, who won the dairy manager of the year in the Southland-Otago awards in 2017, having finished runner-up the year before. . . 

Happy to be farming hops – Country Life:

Harvesting is the busiest time of the year for Holmdale Farm’s Cameron Ealam and his extended family.

They work from dawn to dusk picking, cleaning and drying several varieties of aromatic hop cones that grow on long leafy hop vines.

“The machine starts at seven each morning. We’re doing 12-hour days picking at the moment. The drying kiln will run through the night as well, so big days but (it’s) a short window to get a valuable crop in,” Cameron says.

On the floor behind the kilns are large piles of Motueka and Riwaka hop cones, waiting to be pressed and baled. . . 

Call for long-time enemies cotton and wool to join forces to push enviro credentials – Chris McLennan:

Long-time market enemies, the wool and cotton industries are looking to join forces globally to take on synthetic fibres.

Wool and cotton believe they both have the same eco-friendly credentials to challenge for better environmental ratings in Europe.

They want to form an alliance to champion the benefits of natural fibres as offering many solutions to the world’s current environmental challenges.

A wool industry leader entered uncharted waters when invited to speak to an international cotton conference in Bremen last week. . . 


Rural round-up

06/02/2021

Climate change: farmers should remain calm – Todd Muller:

National’s trade spokesman Todd Muller has advice for Kiwi farmers who may be concerned by the Climate Change report – remain calm.

“I think farmers in New Zealand should take a deep breath,” he told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

The draft advice, released yesterday by the Climate Change Commission, said New Zealand would need to cut livestock numbers by around 15 per cent, halt conventional car imports, decarbonise the energy sector and move Kiwis into electric vehicles – all within 14 years.

In order to hit ambitious greenhouse gas targets, the report also suggested an end to coal heating and more forestry. . . 

Climate change report: Focus on tourism not farming – Jim Hopkins:

If the government was serious about climate change it would curb tourism rather than agriculture, rural commentator Jim Hopkins says.

“They would say tourism’s off the table. Not for 12 months, but for 12 years – or longer – until the planet’s cooled down and we’re all happy again,” he told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

Last week research showed that New Zealand dairy was the most emissions efficient in the world, something that the government should be promoting, rather than trying to reduce, Hopkins said.

He also disagreed with the Climate Change Commission’s draft advice on New Zealand cutting livestock numbers by 15 per cent to reach its ambitious greenhouse gas targets. . . 

Why open farm days matter – Daniel Eb:

Tell our story. That’s a line we hear a lot in farming these days. It’s supposed to be the way that rural New Zealand reconnects with urban Kiwis. How we bridge the divide. But as a marketing guy, I’m not so sure.

Farmer’s stories are everywhere. This very paper is full of them, Country Calendar’s ratings are unbeatable and the NZ Farming Facebook page is one of the country’s largest.

But it’s not enough.

To genuinely connect with people, to make the things that are important to you important to them, farmer storytelling needs to go offline. Videos, news articles and social media play an important role, but they can’t change behaviour alone. . . 

Ngāti Kahungunu joins Ngāi Tahu freshwater court action:

Two powerful iwi, Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Kahungunu, both of the Tākitimu waka, have joined forces in legal proceedings against the Crown.

Ngāti Kahungunu, the country’s third largest iwi, is working with Ngāi Tahu to have the tribe’s rangatiratanga over freshwater recognised, including the Mohaka River in Hawke’s Bay.

Ngāti Kahungunu, like Ngāi Tahu, has seen the traditional waterways and water bodies in its rohe degraded over time through government inaction, overallocation, and lack of environmental protections, including the 2016 Havelock North waterborne disease outbreak. . . 

Sustainably produced beef patties to become new normal:

It’s possible to produce a beef patty sustainably across the supply chain in New Zealand, a year-long trial has shown.

Key players in the red meat industry partnered with the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI’s) Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund to develop a model for producing independently verified sustainable beef through the entire supply chain. The project aimed to help meet the growing demand for ethically sourced and sustainable products.

“The project showed that New Zealand can do this, and the model can be scaled up – so this really is an encouraging milestone,” says Steve Penno, MPI’s Director Investment Programmes. “It provides transparency to customers and the public in a way that hasn’t been possible before.” . . 

DIY shearing seen by some farmers as a quick-fix to shortage – Chris McLennan:

A move by some farmers to cut through the shearer shortage by doing the work themselves has been described as a Band-Aid.

Shearing equipment suppliers from around the country are fielding increased calls from woolgrowers chasing gear with electric handpieces, cutters and combs the popular pick.

Industry leaders say the move is unsurprising given the shortage of shearers, chiefly caused by the loss of New Zealand shearers through the pandemic.

But those same leaders say the pandemic has exposed the industry’s shortcomings. . . 


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